Despite the series being set in Los Angeles, you didn't see that many Hispanic officers or civilians on "Police Story". Well, unlike the rest of the shows, this one is practically ALL Hispanic.
Officer Taylor (Desi Arnaz Jr.) has just transferred to a new part of Los Angeles so that he can learn Spanish and work with Hispanic-Americans. He's partnered with Officer Fernandez (Joe Santos) who seems to know the streets and the language.
This episode is more episodic than most. This is NOT a criticism but a comment about the style. So, instead of focusing on a particular criminal or type of crime, you see a bit of everything--from fights to shootings to drunks. I liked the episode a lot but did find it odd that Arnez played a complete Anglo who knew nothing about the Hispanic population...yet his father, Desi, was Cuban. And, despite the name, Joe Santos is Italian-American! Odd...but still a very good episode.
Sgt. Hansen (Christopher Connelly) is a good detective. But he has a troubled marriage to say the least. There is no intimacy in his relationship, as his wife rebuffs all advances. After several years of this, it's not surprising that he begins to look for intimacy elsewhere...and he begins a relationship with a school teacher (Janet Margolin). When his wife learns the truth, she goes to her husband's superiors to either get him fired or to force him to stop straying.
There is another plot running throughout the show as well. Hansen and is partner are trying to get the goods on a crook known as 'The Duke' (Bernie Casey). He's apparently an expert car thief and no matter what the cops do, they can't seem to catch him with dirty hands.
Both these plots made me wonder if many of the things in the show would occur today. If a cop is cheating on his wife, would Internal Affairs today get involved? And, the initial traffic stop the cops made with The Duke seemed like the detectives were overstepping their authority. I'd love to know more about these things....and I'd only be guessing to think times have changed.
So is it any good? Yes. While not a topic folks like to talk about, marriages do often fail and cops, due to the nature of their jobs, seem particularly susceptible. Plus, it's interesting to see a case where you can see both sides of the problem, as the wife is indeed very cold and completely asexual...which is not at all healthy. Overall, a very good episode....with an incredibly sad ending.
Far more brutal and frank than I expected...so be forewarned.
During WWII, American film studios made tons of films featuring the enemy as monsters...snarling, drooling, evil monsters. Much of this is understandable....the country was at war. But many of these depictions went way overboard...so much so that the films seem very dated today. "China", unlike some of the more severe depictions of the enemy, is actually a bit more realistic. In fact, it's so realistic in spots that the film is much more brutal and frank than you'd expect from a Post-Code American picture.
The story is set in China just before the US entered the war in 1941. China, in contrast to the US, had been at war with China for about a decade...with Japan invading eastern China and in many cases eliminating the locals completely. So, when the film show the Japanese army doing ethnic cleansing, it's actually pretty realistic...ugly...but realistic. In addition, rapes and murders of civilians were common...and the film actually manages to show much more than I'd expect. I also mention this because the film CAN be hard to watch in places...especially in the portion where there is a rape and murders of a family. Because of this, it's far better than the average wartime propaganda movie.
Alan Ladd and William Bendix star as Americans who work for an oil company. This work brought them to China...and Ladd's character, in particular, seems more than willing to sell to the Japanese or Chinese. However, through the course of the story, he sees more and more of the Japanese atrocities and eventually joins the resistence wholeheartedly. Along for the ride is a missionary lady (Loretta Young).
A few things about the film could have been better. In particular, the casting was odd. Ladd was fine in his usual grumpy disaffected role, but Young and Bendix were all wrong. Young plays an American born and raised in China...and she seems as Chinese-American as a taco! Bendix isn't as bad, but he's supposed to be from Oregon...but he sure sounds like Brooklyn (though he apparently was from Manhattan).
On the positive side, the film did not shy away from things and was BRUTAL. While the rape was not shown, it was STRONGLY implied and you could hear the screams. As for the killing, much of it was in hand-to-hand combat and was amazingly harsh for 1943. I appreciate that, as too often war films make war seem fun or easy...here, there is great sacrifice and realism as a result. Overall, very well worth watching and one of Ladd's best.
Almost...and a re-write would have made this an exceptional film.
"Two Heads on a Pillow" is a cheap B-movie. Today, many folks think any low budget film is a B, but the term actually referred to the lesser film shown during a double feature. The A-picture was the larger budgeted and more prestigious film....and always made by an honest to goodness studio. As for the Bs, many were made by so-called "Poverty Row" studios...a term used to refer to outfits that rented out studio space from the big production companies. And, to secrue space, most Bs were made at night when the major studios were finished shooting for the day.
So were Bs bad? Not necessarily. There were some great B films. But the problem was that with low budgets, lesser named actors and filming at night didn't allow much time for re-writes. So, if a script had plot problems, it was often shot anyway...logical or not! This, sadly, is the problem with "Two Heads"...it really needed a re-write and some editing of the script would have made it a lovely movie. Instead, it's got a lot to love....and a lot to hate.
When the story begins, newly married John and Evelyn Smith are having a huge fight...so bad that soon they divorce. Seven years pass and now Evelyn is in John's life again. This is because they are now both lawyers and her client is sueing his! Where does all this go? See the film is you'd like.
The story has a lot of good in it. But too often, the writer seemed to think that folks go from cooing and being in love to practically murdering each other--like this is normal. And, again and again, the Smiths look like they are making up...only to have them screaming at each other over nothing. It really was NOT very good and ruined all the fine moments in the picture. In many ways, it's a lot like the lovely Hepburn/Tracy film "Adam's Rib"....but without the fine writing.
The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case" is a very weak installment of "Columbo"...mostly because the resolution to the case is a big disappointment. As is the case with weaker episodes, it relies on the killer being dumb enough to incriminate themselves in order to wrap up the case!
Oliver Brandt (Theodore Bikel) is a member of a Mensa-like club filled with supposed geniuses. One of the other members of the club is his business partner...and this partner has come to realize that Oliver has been embezzling from the company. And, the partner announces to Oliver behind closed doors that he's going to the authorities about this (NOT a sign of great genius to TELL him this as you KNOW he'll soon die). So, Oliver murders his partner and does it in a way that the folks at the smartypants club all are nearby and THINK he's innocent. After all, he IS among the members when shots ring out and the man is discovered dead.
The episode is supposed to be a battle of wits between the brilliant Oliver and Columbo. The problem is that Oliver seems pretty stupid and incriminating himself at the end is just dumb...too dumb to be realistic or satisfying to watch.
And, the cliche of having the murder victim announce he's going to the police--very silly and improbable. Overall, very weak and forgettable.
Watch it for the strange supporting characters they meet along the way.
"Father Figure" is a highly unusual movie because I wasn't too fond of the plot of the film....but I loved the quirky characters so much that the plot itself didn't really matter so much. Sure, it is ridiculous in spots...but overall it's well worth seeing.
When the story begins, two twins, Peter and Kyle (Ed Helms and Owen Wilson), are visiting with their mother (Glenn Close). The generally uptight Peter asks his mother about their father...a man he and Kyle never knew. She makes up a lie and tells them it's Terry Bradshaw! Soon, they go on a road trip and meet Terry. Bradshaw is thrilled to learn he has two sons...but eventually realizes he cannot be the boys' dad. He gives them a clue which takes them to a very unsavory guy (J.K. Simmons) and so on....as the boys go through clus after clue and think four different guys are their dad! Where will this all end?
I loved the supporting characters in this one. In addition to Bradshaw and Simmons, Katt Williams was fantastic...perhaps the best of the supporting folks. And, there were a few other great cameos that make it very enjoyable.
On the negative side, the film is quite crude and sexual (though I do think the R rating is too severe--perhaps it should have been PG-13) and things work out too perfectly too many times for the film to have a lot of real depth. But, on balance, the good far outweighs the bad and I'd like to see more from these folks.
Joyce Van Patten stars as Ruth Lytton, an older single lady whose life revolves around her running the family museum. However, when she learns that her brother is planning on selling the place, she decides they'll keep it open....even if it means killing him and another person in order to make the brother's death look like a robbery gone bad.
This is a decent episode up until the ending. While there is some evidence that Ruth did the double murder, it's not clear....yet she confesses to it. Weak...very weak.
The perfect film for someone who wants something different....and doesn't mind really, really weird!
I would love to know more about "Los Espookys"---how they came up with the idea, where it was filmed and why they chose to make it in Spanish. Regardless, I really did enjoy it and am looking forward to seeing season two on Netflix!
It's very difficult to describe this show as well as why I enjoyed it. Suffice to say that I love TV shows that are weird, quirky and unusual....and this one certainly fits the bill. It's the story of a group of four odd Hispanic folks who have a business, Los Spookys. Their goal is to use scary gimmicks, makeup and props to make a living. Now you'd THINK this would involve making movies or throwing parties, but they often use their skills for the most bizarre and funny clients--such as a priest who wants to fake an exorcism in order to show up a flashy young priest as well as creating a Loch Ness Monster/Sasquatch type creature to bring a seaside town tourism! Add to that some of the quirkiest characters and situations and you've got the makings for weird...big time!
The show is well written, clever and well worth seeing. My concern, however, is that many folks will refuse to watch any show with subtitles...and it's a shame as you are bound to laugh and enjoy it if you give it a chance.
A disjoint but somewhat entertaining morality tale.
"Born to Gamble" is a very low budgeted B-movie from tiny Liberty Pictures, a 'Poverty Row' studio that filmed at the RKO lot at night. Many of the so-called 'Povery Row' studios filmed at night because they didn't actually own studio space but instead rented sound stages at the major studios--filming when the majors sent everyone home for the night. Not surprisingly, cheapness seems to be pretty obvious with this one...but there ARE bits and pieces which are pretty good.
H.B. Warner plays Carter Mathews, a rich industrialist whose family has been torn apart by gambling. How do we know this? Because Carter tells all his friends at the club all about his family nightmare--starting with his father-in-law and with the gambling bug somehow jumping onto Carter's three sons. Because of the type story it is, the film is quite episodic and all point to the evils of gambling and the virtues of hard work.
Is it any good? Mostly no because the message is obvious and heavyhanded. Plus, with a running time of only about an hour, the film is rushed and unconvincing. Too bad, as Warner and Onslow Stevens are both quite good and there are some very good moments in the film. Worth seeing as a flawed time-passer and not much more.
Imagine...William Shatner playing a self-absorbed crime fighter.
Ward Fowler (William Shatner) is a successful television detective. However, his producer is taking advantage of him, as she knows he has a shady past and she threatens to expose him unless he gives her half his income. Not surprisingly, Ward is not pleased with this arrangement and it becomes the motive for his killing her. Using props from the studio, he stages a phony robbery and kills the woman.
When Lieutenant Columbo arrives on the scene, Ward behaves as if he, too, is a crime fighter. Again and again, this arrogant actor tells Columbo how to handle the case and time and again Columbo defers to the actor--pretending to be in awe of Fowler's detecting skills. Not surprisingly, Columbo gives the guy enough rope that eventually he does, figuratively, hang himself.
This was a very enjoyable installment of the series. Shatner was quite good as the egomaniac and the interplay between him and Peter Falk (Columbo) was quite enjoyable and clever. Overall, a very good episode with a well-conceived crime and investigation.
It tries very, very hard to be quirky and funny...and fails miserably in the process.
There is much to hate about this episode of "Columbo" and from the reviews on IMDB, I noticed that most folks strongly disliked this particular installment. Oddly, a tiny number gave it a 10 and loved it. As for me, I strongly disliked the show....and consider it the worst I've seen so far (and I've seen all the episodes up until this one).
The Commodore (John Dehner) is a rich guy who owns a boat building empire. Despite his wealth, however, he's not a happy man and can't stand his family. After telling them all off, he (not surprisingly for a detective show) is killed. It is made to look like a boating accident. The main suspect, however, cannot be the murderer, as soon he, too, is killed. So who done it?
I am not sure if the script called for it or the director (Patrick McGoohan) insisted on all the 'funny' and quirky touches in the episode....which turns out to be a big mistake. Much of this was unfunny and actually annoying, such as the car scene where everyone is squeezing into Columbo's car, the telephone bit and yelling over the equipment at the dock. It's supposed to be cute and funny but comes off as forced and as if the show was being made by folks who were not acquainted with "Columbo". As for guest star Robert Vaugn, he just looked lost or possibly annoyed among all this monkey business. The same could be said of Dennis Dugan....who was cast as a young detective hanging out with Columbo but who was thoroughly wasted. Add to this that the unraveling of the mystery is essentially like an old B-mystery where everyone sits in a room until one of the possible suspects accidentally betrays themselves! Overall, not much to recommend this terrible episode...as it's badly written, sloppily directed and, most importantly, dopey and unsatisfying.
One of the very best episodes....and quite enjoyable, too.
The story in "Now You See Him" is one of the best of all the "Columbo" episodes. It is quite enjoyable to watch...and extremely well thought out and intelligently written.
When the story begins, you learn that the great illusionist, The Great Santini* (Jack Cassidy), has something to hide...and he's being blackmailed because of it. His boss (Nehemiah Persoff) knows that Santini was actually an SS soldier who worked in a death camp during WWII. To rid himself of this threat, Santini uses his knowledge of magic and deception to make it appear as if he could never have done the murder as he was in a different part of the nightclub at the time of the killing. It's up to Columbo to match wits with Santini and best him at his own game.
The writing was just exquisite in this one and the story very exciting. It's a shame that Cassidy died later the same year he made this guest appearance, as he was always wonderful on the show. Also interesting is seeing Sgt. Wilson on the show, as he played Wilson in an earlier episode ("Greenhouse Jungle")...though his first name, oddly, changed.
*Not to be confused with the character played by Robert Duvall so expertly in 1979.
The episode begins with Columbo in Mexico. He's in trouble because a group of folks staged an accident and Columbo barely speaks Spanish. Fortunately a local policeman intervenes...unfortunately, he has to stay in the country for a few more days AND this policeman asks him to help on a case. It seems that on the estate of a great retired bullfighter, Don Montoya (Ricardo Montalban), there have been a couple accidents. First, a young bullfighter in training was severely injured. Second, shortly after that the injured man's father is torn to pieces by the same bull. Soon, Columbo is convinced that the death was NOT an accident...the bull was 'helped'. But why??
This is a sub-par episode because by the end Columbo found a good reason for the murder but in no way did he prove that the murderer killed anyone....no evidence at all. Yet, inexplicably, the man surrendered to police and the credits began to roll! Overall, quite weak...and a disappointment.
By the way, this as well as episodes of "Mannix", "Quincy", "Murder She Wrote", "Cannon" and "Columbo" have convinced me that crimefighters should NEVER go on vacation....bodies are sure to begin piling up wherever they go!
"He Stayed for Breakfast" is a strange film with a plot that defies logic. Think about it....the leading man (Melvyn Douglas) in this romantic comedy is a communist agitator! To say this is weird in an American film of the era is an understatement to say the least!
When the film begins, Paul (Douglas) is out trying to recruit folks to join the Communist Party in Paris. Soon after this, as he's working his job as a waiter in a cafe, he loses control of himself and shoots the cup out of the hand of a nasty plutocrat (Eugene Pallette)! Not surprisingly, he's soon a wanted man. And, when he hides out he just happens to pick the apartment of the estranged wife of this rich guy! And, inexplicably, she agrees to hide him from authorities!! Eventually, you KNOW that pair will fall in love...though HOW this could even happen defies common sense.
The plot is insane and you wonder if perhaps the studio head, Roy Cohn, had lost his mind by making such a film! Making it a rom-com is also pretty bizarre...especially with Paul spouting Stalin and Trotsky all the time! How did they expect the American public to embrace this sort of thing?! Now if it had been written well or with SOME subtlety, it could have possibly worked. As it is, it's just a bad, weird film with little to recommend it.
Only a few years ago I learned that there was a portion of India in which lions STILL live....Gujarat. So, when I saw a documentary about this I was thrilled. And, fortunately, I was also pleasantly surprised. Why pleasantly surprised? Because unlike the slaughter of animals in Africa, the folks in India have embraced the lions and they love and protect them. This success story makes the documentary enjoyable and optimistic....and well worth your time. See this one.
The show begins with Nelson Brenner (Patrick McGoohan) murdering A.J. Henderson (Leslie Nielsen). Not surprisingly, when the body is found, Cloumbo is on the case. His leads bring him to Brenner but when this occurs, he's shocked to have the CIA come to him--asking that he drop considering Brenner as a suspect.
So why did I only give this one a 5? A couple reasons. First, the mystery wasn't that mysterious and Brenner gave up and confessed too easily. Second, and I know it won't matter to many, but I was annoyed that the writer didn't do their research...specifically they didn't understand that a T-33 trainer is called a 'Shooting Star'...not a 'Silver Star'....and having a pilot referring to it the wrong way seemed odd and took me out of the story.
Columbo isn't exactly a master of diplomacy in this one!
"A Case of Immunity" is an episode of "Columbo" that is very good. However, I should note one thing. Altough the show is about folks from a mythical Muslim nation, the main actors in it were not--one being a Sicilian-American and the other a Puerto Rican/Basque-American. This isn't very unusual though it might have been nice to have Muslim actors in these roles.
The story begins with a staged murder and robbery meant to discredit dissidents from a fictional nation. Then, to keep things secret, the diplomat organizing all this kills his accomplice. Now Columbo is investigating two murders and is spending much time in diplomatic circles. What makes this tough is that the killer has diplomatic immunity....so what is Columbo to do??
I enjoyed the change of venue in this story, though it does seem impobable that such a case would be handled by the Los Angeles Police. Still, it is enjoyable and Columbo's interactions with the killer are amazingly fun to watch.
This is the first of three appearances by young Billy Mumy on "The Twilight Zone"....as well as the sixth of six episodes which were videotaped. The most famous of Mumy's appearances was where he was a monster with incredible psychic powers...and he terrorized all those around him. Here, however, he's a much more benign character!
When the story begins, five year-old Billy is having a birthday dinner with his parents and grandma. Grandma is deathly ill and shortly after giving the boy a toy phone, she dies. However, her will is apparently quite strong as she begins calling the boy on his phone....and giving him instructions to off himself so he can join her!
This is a fair episode of the series--neither a particularly good one nor a bad one. The story offers few surprises but the acting is decent. An episode that is hardly a must-see....but one that is intelligently written and enjoyable.
Dan Duryea takes a trip through The Twilight Zone.
"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" is well worth seeing because it stars one of the lesser-known but best actors to have guest starred on "The Twilight Zone"...Dan Duryea. Duryea generally played scummy supporting characters....villains or pusilanimous cowards. But occasionally he got to play roles outside this narrow range...and he never disappointed. Here, he plays a sad drunk who used to be a gunslinger in the 'good old days'.
The show begins out west. A young punk (Martin Landau) is getting his kicks by tormenting the town drunk, Al Denton (Duryea). Again and again, he delights in slapping him around and getting him to sing for a drink...calling him 'rummy' and treating him like dirt. However, when a gun somehow appears in Al's hand, his life story changes....and that is what makes this a nice installment of "The Twilight Zone".
I will admit that this is NOT one of the more memorable stories from the series and it lacks the creepiness we all love. But the acting...well...that is well worth seeing. Landau, as usual, was a great professional but seeing Duryea...that was a treat. Well worth seeing and exceptionally well made.
Of all the episodes of "Columbo" I have seen, "Forgotten Lady" seems to take the prize for the most amazing enemble cast. It stars Janet Leigh and is supported by John Payne (in his final performance), Sam Jaffe and Maurice Evans (whose greatest work, apparently, was on the stage). Together, the four make for an especially memorable show.
When the show begins, Grace Wheeler Willis (Leigh) is contemplating a comeback. It seems she was a huge star during the heyday of Hollywood and she thinks the world is ready for her return. However, her rich husband (Jaffe) isn't about to finance this vanity project....and so she murders him! How does she essentially get away with it....especially with Columbo on the case?!
This story differs from the average "Columbo" in many ways. There is a greater emphasis on comedy (with his dog in far more scenes than usual). There is an ending where the expected does NOT happen. And, you get to see Columbo dressed NICELY for once...just near the end. Overall, a very well written and rather sad episode despite its comedic elements.
Dr. Mark Collier (George Hamilton) is a psychiatrist whose moral compass is a bit bent to say the least! For example, he's having a sexual relationship with a patient he's currently treating! Then, when they arrange to meet for another round of hide the sausage, the angry husband shows up and confronts them. A fight ensues and Collier bashes the man over the head to get him off his scared wife. Not surprisingly, the husband is dead. And, instead of telling the police what happened, the doc insists his lover create a story about two masked men entering the house and killing the husband. The problem is that the wife (Lesley Ann Warren) is rather unstable and eventually the psychiatrist comes up with a hard to believe way to silence her using hypnosis.
The story is enjoyable and interesting. Unfortunately, the writer assumed hypnosis is MUCH more powerful than it really is, as you couldn't use it to kill anyone. I have training in hypnotherapy....and if I COULD use it for evil, I might! But such stuff is more the creation of TV and movie screenwriters than fact. Still, it IS enjoyable and Hamilton is very good as a suave killer.
According to IMDB, Peter Falk himself traveled to Switzerland to meet Oskar Werner and to ask him to guest star on "Columbo". This is a bit strange, as Werner had a very strong German accent....and it was a bit hard to understand in the show and I am glad I was using closed captions.
As for Werner, he played Harold Van Wick...a guy who obviously did NOT like his mother-in-law. When she announced that she was firing him from his job because she felt he wasn't spending money wisely, he responded by murdering her. Using his knowledge of video recording equipment, he altered the surveillance tapes to make it appear she was killed while he was away at a gallery.
This is a decent episode but as I mentioned above, Werner was not great as the killer. Because of this, I'd knock off a point and think it's a weak show.
Columbo didn't produce one of his better cases here.
By the time "Murder, a Self Portrait" was made, more than 20 years had passed since the first "Columbo" movie. This, combined with a relatively unexciting case make this a must-see for fans. Others might just wanna try one of the earlier installments.
When the episode begins, you see that the artist Max Barsini has a most unusual living arrangement. His marriage seems very open and strange. His ex-wife lives next door and is very actively involved with Max's second wife as well as his lover...and the four of them eat and spend their time together! At first, it appears as if they are one big happy, albeit strange, family. However, when the first wife wants to leave and start a new life, Max's narcissism and co-dependence kick in and he murders her....making it look like a simply drowning. However, Columbo is on the case....and there seems to be nothing like a simple death to him!
The guest actors in this one are okay....but not particularly memorable or exciting to watch. The same goes with the finale, which has little in the way of fireworks or excitement.
Probably NOT a film to watch with your kids or mother.
When the story begins, John (Keanu Reeves) has just lost his wife. After her death, he's a bit lost but tries to rebuild his life. One day, he's getting gas and a young Russian-American punk notices Wick's classic car...and tries to buy it off him. But Wick isn't interested and declines. Soon, the punk arrives at Wick's home with some goons where they surprise him--beating him senseless, destroying his stuff, killing his dog and stealing his car! This is when you then learn that Wick is a super-assassin....and the punk chose the wrong guy to attack. The jerk's father is a big-time Russian mobster....and it's a contest to see who will win...the mobster and his gang or Wick on his own. Considering there are (so far) two MORE John Wick films, it pretty much seems certain who will win this battle.
To say "John WIck" is a violent film is a gross undestatement. Once the dog dies, it's pretty much a bloodbath from then on...with Wick dispatching countless goons VERY realistically on his way to ultimate revenge. And, he doesn't just kill a few...he makes sure to kill them by double and triple-tapping his prey. Blood and mayhem make this a lousy film to show your kids, mother or Father O'Reilly when he comes over for a visit!
So, aside from being a bloodbath, is it any good? Yes, it's an excellent all-action film...but....it IS hard to watch and is essentially a giant gore-fest. In many ways, it's like the Sonny Chiba 'Street Fighter' films....that violent and that dedicated to making sure all the victims are indeed dead! Mindless violence....albeit well choreographed violence. Not really my sort of film...perhaps it will be yours.
Step-by-step...how Hollywood produces crap for the TV.
Mike Klein (David Duchovney) is trying to produce a TV show he's written. And, while the network folks SAY they love the idea, the vacuous idiot from programming (Signourney Weaver) does her best to slowly destroy all that is original and brilliant and reduce it to yet another banal sit-com.
I read a book some time ago that talked about the creative process by which movies are made in Hollywood. Essentially, a story is written, re-written and changed so much that by the time the film gets to theaters, if at all, it's absolutely nothing like the original story. This, then, is very much like you see in "The TV Set", as a very good television show idea is created and how, over time, idiots manage to destroy everything that made it so good.
The story is very insightful and clever....and a must for TV/movie buffs. My only reservation is that some folks will not like the movie because it lacks a happy ending. Some others might not like it as well because the film calls out crap TV...and those who LIKE crap TV might be offended....though offending folks like that is hardly a problem.